13
Jun 05

Cheese Rolling, Coopers Hill, Gloucs, May Bank Holiday

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Subtitle: Great British Festivals where injuries are inevitable.

What’s the origin? No-one really knows and so out come the traditional explanations like harvest festival and test of virility. Medieval Jackass in other words.

The gradient of the hill starts at 1:2 although further down it shoots vertical for a short stretch and the slope is uneven for most of the 200 yard ‘course’.

Vegans are up in arms. The pierced and shaven-headed food fascists want to substitute the cheese with a soya alternative. “It is unethical” they say but sympathy has more pressing assignments. Injuries happen every year; sprains and bruises, breaks and splinters. In 1997 a ‘competitor’ went to hospital with head injuries after the cheese cracked his skull.

I gave it a go a few years back. The first few steps are fine, but gathering momentum the hill rises up and physics demands stumble then tumble. The first to the bottom gets to keep the cheese. Those with double Gloucester in their sights have developed the ability to run and fall simultaneously and their acceleration is frightening. Bottom of the hill are private medical officers ready to stop and catch and load onto stretchers.

I don’t wish to be rude to the west country, but some of these folk were a bit Deliverance. Head-over-heeling down the hill I was more worried about some sister-fiddler landing on my head than naturally cracking my own bones. The calcium in the cheese should repair the bones shattered in its pursuit, I suppose. I got to the bottom grass-stained and intact but the cheese was long gone.

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